ALGARVE


Portugal’s southernmost coastline, where the sea is warm and calm. The Algarve has a lot to offer. The sea is warm, the climate is wonderful and the holiday villages, hotels and luxury resorts are superb places to stay. The small fishing villages - such as Santa Luzia, in Tavira - and the small port of Sagres are idyllic and peaceful.

The Algarve’s beaches are among the best in the world, and there is much variety to choose from - hidden beaches, family beaches, beaches where the sea is calm and beaches that are ideal for water sports.

Wherever you look, the colors of the mountains and sea are always with you, creating the impression of a watercolor dotted with highlights of gold, green and blue. The region is extensive and pleasant, with a Mediterranean climate, marked by the smell of the sea at low tide and the scent of wild flowers.

A stroll through the tangled web of narrow streets, alleys and steps to be found away from the coast is the best way of getting to know this part of the region. But you can also easily lose yourself in the vastness of the coastal strip. Here the backdrop is composed of some of Europe's most beautiful beaches, from where you can admire the rocky coastline and the playful shadows they cast on the sand.

After the enchantment of the landscape, you can discover the aromas and flavors of the traditional Algarve cuisine. The menu may consist of fish and shellfish, with such dishes as caldeirada de peixe (fish-stew) or cataplana de amêijoas (clams steamed in a copper pan), or you can enjoy the traditional mountain food of stewed chickpeas and cabbage. The range of choices will also include the famous regional delicacies, such as figs, almonds, carobs and the brandy made from the locally grown medronho (arbutus-berry), distilled up in the hills in old copper stills.

As you travel across the Algarve, amidst its hills and plains filled with places of great ecological interest, rich in biodiversity and ecosystems, you will feel as though you are passing through an area full of different traditions, unchanged for many centuries.

The handicraft is skillfully manufactured by the local craftsmen, who make use of longstanding, ancestral techniques and produce an excellent range of pottery, woven baskets, copper and brass articles, or other pieces made of linen and jute.

Only a step away from the tranquil peace of the inland region is the excitement of the Algarve nightlife. Bars, discos, marinas and casinos guarantee visitors the very best kind of merrymaking.

The region's built heritage is something you cannot afford to miss. The architecture of the whitewashed houses, with their brightly-colored moldings and remarkably beautiful chimneys, the church belfries and the museums, all reveal particular memories of the ancestors of the Algarve people and help to make this such a special destination.

Also to be recommended is the range of outdoor sports that are available, whether you're playing golf on lush green courses or enjoying some physical exercise at some of the region's excellent facilities, whether you're on the coast or perhaps up in the hills, where, after the rigors of winter and even before the first signs of spring, the land is covered in a pinkish white blanket, produced by the blossom of the almond-trees scattered across the horizon.





HISTORY

In the Algarve, your holidays will take on a historical flavor. All around the region, you will find the chance to discover some of the charms and secrets of Portugal's history, which time has not managed to erase. Spending your holidays in the Algarve also provides an opportunity for travelling in time, finding numerous testimonies to the different peoples and cultures that have come together throughout the history of this region.

From traces of the Roman presence to evidence of the long legacy of Muslim times, from the Christian reconquest to the epic period of the Portuguese discoveries, you will find all kinds of reasons for rediscovering the signs of a quite distinctive historical past. The evidence of the human settlement of the Algarve dates back to time immemorial. Examples of this presence are to be found in the Neolithic remains from many thousands of years ago and the more recent, but no less interesting, Roman archaeological sites, now open to visitors.

Any trip into the region's past and its valuable history should also include a visit to the various archaeological museums, displaying a vast heritage waiting to be discovered. As the home to a range of ancient civilizations, the Algarve was also visited by many other peoples, inevitably brought to the region by the immense sea that bathes its shores.



More than five centuries of Moorish influences left their indelible imprint upon the region, beginning with its actual name: Al-Gharb, meaning The West. The long Moorish occupation of the territory, which lasted from the 8th to the 13th century, is still to be noted in the names of the towns and villages, in the region's agriculture, in the architecture of the monuments, the lacework patterns of the balconies, roof terraces and chimneys, or the whitewashed houses still to be seen in many Algarve villages. At that time, Silves was the central focus of the region because of its strategic geographical location.

In the mid-13th century, the Algarve was the last part of Portugal to be reconquered from Muslim rule. After a long period of forward pushes and backward retreats, the Christian reconquest enjoyed the valuable collaboration of the Knights of the Order of St. James, led by Dom Paio Peres Correia. The result was that, in the reign of Dom Afonso III, the Arab presence in the Algarve was brought to an end and the region was joined to the Kingdom of Portugal. Besides Silves, the cities of Tavira and Faro, the present-day capital of the Algarve, were definitively conquered from the Moors. This marked the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves.



Later, in the early 15th century, the beginning of the Portuguese maritime expansion brought a new lease of life to the Algarve and its people. Since then, Lagos and Sagres have remained forever linked to Prince Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese Discoveries. Even today, at the headland known as the Ponta de Sagres, a giant stone finger can be seen pointing towards the Atlantic Ocean in a clear allusion to the courage of the Algarve navigators, such as Gil Eanes, who set sail across the seas in search of new worlds to give to the world.

Many marks of this remote past, which is still very much present in the soul of the Algarve's inhabitants, are to be found scattered all around the region. Paying a visit to Aljezur, Lagos, Silves, Faro, Tavira, Castro Marim and Alcoutim means discovering the grandeur of Portuguese history, its people and their traditions, in each museum, church, fort and castle of the region.




THINGS TO DO

Beaches and sun

Some of the best and most beautiful beaches in the entire world can to be found in the Algarve. It’s hardly surprising then that the region is a favorite for sun-seekers from all over. They come in search of the natural heritage that is now managed in a sustainable fashion, in order to provide quality recreational facilities able to meet all kinds of requirements. There are beaches to suit every taste with the majority having gained due recognition in the form of the EU "Blue Flag" for quality standards. Along its 200-kilometre coastline, the Algarve features all types of coves, cliffs and caves, its rocky beaches contrasting with broad expanses of sand. Different types of beach, but all bathed in the calm, warm seawaters of this coastline. Equally attractive is the Algarve's mild climate all year round. From Odeceixe all the way to Vila Real de Santo António, the entire coast enjoys a Mediterranean-style microclimate with temperatures that vary from 15º C in winter through to 30º C in summer. The beaches of the Algarve thus represent the ideal choice for some truly invigorating holidays!




Golf

A golfing paradise - all year round! One of the finest golfing destinations in Europe, the Algarve is regarded today as an elite venue by top professionals.

The plans for the courses, mostly designed by internationally recognized golf-course architects, together with the superb landscapes in which they are located, satisfy the requirements of the most demanding enthusiasts, marking out the region as first-rate destination for golf.

The favorable climate with more than 300 days of sun per year, allows the golf season to be extended over several months, bringing players from all over the world to the Algarve.




Sports and adventure

You do not have to wait until summer to come to the Algarve to take part in sports or other outdoor activities. Throughout the region, and all year long, you can interact with the natural environment by playing sport in the healthy atmosphere of the Algarve. Be it at the ocean shore, in the Barrocal, or in the picturesque mountains, the Algarve brings together the perfect conditions that enable a huge range of marine, land and aerial activities; some just for fun, some more adventurous, others more radical still.

Apart from the fine geography and climate with which it is blessed, the Algarve is also equipped with the most diverse and modern infrastructure to support outdoor activities. As a result, the whole region is now firmly on the map of Portuguese sporting destinations.




Business and leisure

Far from the glamour of the summer months, there is a peaceful Algarve, conducive to concentration and ideal for staging business meetings and incentive programs. In an intimate setting with the facilities to provide the necessary comfort for demanding meetings between professionals, the Algarve is a key destination area within the sector of business tourism.

Benefiting from good air and land links with other parts of the world, as well as the vast range of four- and five-star hotels available, this area has become the capital of business tourism in the South of Portugal.

The region provides many options for having a good time between meetings. With a series of planned activities, evening entertainment and cultural events, the circle that cleverly combines business with pleasure is complete.




Culture and tradition

Discover a unique way to do, feel and celebrate. More than just magnificent beaches and a blessed climate, the Algarve offers a rich folk heritage which is worth appreciating along with the pleasures of the sun and the sea.

Devote some time to discovering it because there are old customs, living traditions and heritage buildings which can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Algarvians across the centuries have left such a rich heritage which deserves to be explored: from the unique celebrations of festive occasions (such as Easter, Christmas or spring); to the historical buildings of ancient and recent times; to the irresistible delicacies making up the regional cuisine.




Nature and landscape

The Algarve’s natural diversity is undoubtedly one of its greatest riches. Visitors can easily pass through different environments within the same landscape. From coastal regions to the Algarvian Mountains, there is a whole world of diversity to be explored and just as many different ways to do so.

On the coastline, an ecological system of awe-inspiring biodiversity – from native birds with proudly built nests, to mollusks and crustaceans which are the main source of revenue for seafood producers in the South – invites visitors to observe fauna and flora closely on pleasant trail walks.

Far from the wide beaches and steep cliffs, bright green mixes with shades of brown in the vast plains of the Barrocal region that invites the visitor to experience a different Algarve, one that is covered with orange trees and orchards of fig, carob and almond trees.

Here too, there are nature trails to follow. Miles and miles of landscape with special geological features – schist and granite-like rock – are here to be enjoyed in the tranquility of the mountains among friends and family.




Good living

Everything you need to live life to the fullest! At once cosmopolitan and rustic, the Algarve is a region that can be enjoyed either for a quiet or active holiday, according to individual taste. If you want a fun-filled holiday, you will find the latest musical trends of Algarvian night- life and its hot spots an irresistible draw. The discotheques, marinas, casinos, bars and restaurants, many with open air seating, all offer a free and easy atmosphere to satisfy the most varied of tastes. During the day, there is also a lot to do: from theme parks to shopping centers and various cultural events, all guaranteed to leave you with unforgettable memories. If you are looking for a quieter holiday, you can opt for the refinement of thalassotherapy centers and SPAs, healthy breaks at thermal water centers or the peace of relaxation farms.